With the 2022 Formula 1 Season already teasing to be an exiting year for fans, we can’t help but look back at the events that transpired last year.
The 2021 Formula 1 season proved to be a nail biting event, both on and off the tracks. F1 fans eagerly waited for the racing cars to hit the tracks and were surely in for many surprises throughout the season.
In almost all the races of the 2021 season, all eyes were on the fierce battles between defending champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and young Red Bull driver Max Verstappen.
While the title battle went down to the wire, almost every race on the way had its share of crashes, cars going over sausage kerbs, high-risk manoeuvers, slides and confusions.
Be it Williams’ George Russell’s crash and Lewis Hamilton’s car sliding at Imola or Max Verstappen’s epic tyre blow out at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix or underdogs like Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardio winning the races, the 2021 season had high voltage moments all throughout.
Here are some of the most notable moments from the 2021 Formula 1 season
George Russell’s crash at Imola
The Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix started with Lewis Hamilton suffering an epic slide, over the sausage kerbs and hitting a wall before returning to the track. It happened soon after Max Verstappen’s car touched Hamilton’s Mercedes and damaged its front wing.
As the spectators were getting over the slide, the race was halted by a red flag when George Russell crashed with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas. Russell was racing ahead with an enormous speed of over 300 kph and DRS (Drag reduction system), as he tried to overtake Bottas. Just then the Mercedes driver squeezed him to the edges, sending him to the wet grass. This sent Russell into a whirlwind of spin and hit Bottas as well. There was debris all over as the entire crash took place in less than two seconds.
The race took place on 18 April and Verstappen emerged as the winner.
A tyre situation for Max Verstappen
Starting from a third grid slot in Baku, Max Verstappen had a comfortable race control. For onlookers, this race was sure to end on a good note for him, however, the sudden turn of events showed quite the contrary.
Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll had a tyre failure in the final sector and something similar happened with Verstappen at the beginning of Lap 47, when his rear left tyre gave up. The car went right and then hit the wall before going for a full 360 degree turn. A slight gap between the track and the wall saved a massive impact as Verstappen was heading with a speed of 300 kph. With just five more laps left, he missed the lead.
The Azerbaijan race was memorable for a number of reasons. Verstappen had a five seconds lead over Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez and a win in this race would have added fuel to the Verstappen-Hamilton rivalry, as both drivers would have equalled their winning tally.
The race took place on 6 June and was won by Sergio Perez.
The Silverstone strife
The British Grand Prix may not have had crashes or jaw dropping turns, however, it did have its fair share of drama and racing politics.
It was quite a tense situation for Hamilton as well as the Mercedes team as they had to buckle up to keep their hopes for the title alive. They had won three out of four initial races but then faced repeated defeats. On the contrary, archrival Verstappen had a good 32 point advantage in the drivers’ standing and Red Bull, too, had a lead in the team leaderboard.
At such a juncture, the Silverstone track proved to be the game changer. The two leading drivers went absolutely head on, right from the beginning of the first lap. Hamilton damaged Verstappen’s right rear tyre and tore it from its rim. The Red Bull car lost control and went sliding in the gravel trap.
Verstappen attempted to take the corner and though it seemed there was enough space, the two collided and Verstappen flew into the barriers at very high momentum. He sustained a number of bruises and injuries and was immediately rushed to the hospital.
After resuming the red flagged race, Hamilton chased Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and won 26 points.
After winning the race on 18 July, Hamilton celebrated with British fans and this did not go down well with the Red Bull team as their driver was still admitted.
A crashing Grand Prix
The Hungarian Grand Prix became quite a crashing spectacle, which wasn’t expected by many. After the Silverstone episode, this was a refreshing moment for Vertsappen ahead of the summer break.
The overcast Budapest sky and a wet track caused serious problems for Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas.
Starting off at second grid position, McLaren’s Lando Norris, Verstappen and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, all went past Bottas right from the beginning. Having been overtaken by the Red Bull cars, Bottas miscalculated his breaks and slammed right into Norris’ rear end. This resulted in a broken tyre and Bottas T-boned Perez.
But that was not the end. A flurry of crashes followed. Once Bottas crashed against Norris, the latter lost control over his vehicle and ran into Verstappen’s car. Interestingly though, Bottas took down both the Red Bull vehicles himself.
Turn 1 had a few more twists and crashes awaiting. Lance Stroll jammed his brakes and this locked up both his rear and front tyres. He headed for the grass and on the way took down Charles Leclerc. Coming through turn 1 was another McLaren driver, Daniel Ricciardo, who got hit by Leclerc.
A red flag put the race to a halt and Vertappen’s Red Bull was given some repairs. He finished ninth, earning two points towards his World Championship campaign.
The race took place on 1 August and marked the first podium victory for Esteban Ocon and Alpine.
Monza mania: Hamilton and Verstappen collide again
After the Silverstone drama, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, appeared as an extension. Max Verstappen started from pole position and Hamilton began climbing up from the back.
Both seemed to slow down at Lap 23, which made the two rivals come abreast at the first chicane on Lap 25. Hamilton dispatched Lando Norris to go after the Red Bull and he himself attempted to pass but Verstappen sent out a stern answer at turn 4. Hamilton forced Max into turn 2 and made him hit the sausage kerb.
The two again interlocked wheel to wheel and Verstappen got attached to the Mercedes’ left rear. This sent both into the gravel as Verstappen’s car was hurled into the air and he landed on Hamilton’s car. The latter’s Halo device and roll bar saved his day and he escaped without any injuries. However, the sight of Verstappen climbing out of his car while Hamilton remained trapped, was one of the most intense and cold moments from the 2021 Formula 1 season. Later, Verstappen did suffer a three-place grid penalty.
The race took place on 12 September and was won by Daniel Ricciardo.
Lando Norris’ win washed away
Driving effortlessly and with a salient confidence, Lando Norris, McLaren driver and young F1 blood, had a steady grip over the Russian Grand Prix. On the race day, Norris surpassed Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and took the lead. He lost it at the start but was quick to regain it after the first pit window.
On a mission to take teammate Daniel Riccardo’s Italian Grand Prix position, Norris was constantly on the lookout to keep Lewis Hamilton’s chase at bay.
Just before the last few laps, rain started pouring on Sochi. Though the McLaren pitwall suggested a change in intermediate rain tyres, Norris insisted on carrying on. It took Hamilton 47 laps to match up to Norris but the Mercedes driver, seasoned in tackling a change in weather conditions, knew how to run his machine on the wet track.
Lap 49 made the situation tense as all drivers struggled. However those who pitted at Laps 47 and 48 had the most benefits. On the other hand Hamilton pitted at Lap 49. At Lap 51, Norris suffered a slide at turn 4 and at turn 5 it was even worse. Hamilton took the lead and that was all for Lando Norris.
The race took place on 26 September and Lewis Hamilton won.
Brake test at Saudi Arabia
The season’s penultimate race was held in Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah on 5 December and saw another round of the classic Hamilton-Verstappen rivalry. Due to his lead of just eight points over Hamilton, Verstappen was under severe pressure to deny the Mercedes driver enough points to surpass him on the table.
A restart after a red flag put Hamilton in the lead during the race but Verstappen soon snatched the lead from him.
But by Lap 37 the rear tyres of Verstappen’s car were under tremendous pressure and yet he was unwilling to let Hamilton overtake him. At this juncture, the Red Bull racer was sternly ordered by his team management to give the lead to Mercedes. Apparently, overlapping radio signals muddled the messages and Verstappen slammed the brakes in order to give way to Hamilton. Caught off guard, Hamilton ran straight into the rear of Verstappen’s car.
Though the Mercedes driver went on to win the race, he alleged that Verstappen did this on purpose and deliberately ‘brake tested’ him.
Following the incident, FIA cautioned drivers that such actions will invite strong penalisation as well as lead to deduction of points or elimination from the season altogether which accounted for a major event in the 2021 Formula 1 season.
High voltage season end at Abu Dhabi
The heated rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen continued till the very last day at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on 12 December and made the 2021 Formula 1 season thrilling like no other.
Hamilton wanted to win his eighth title and break Michael Schumacher’s world record. But that was not to be.
Williams’ Nicholas Laitifi crashed into the wall at Lap 53 and a safety car was called in. This mandated most cars to return to the pit until the track was clear but Hamilton remained on it.
Usually the Race Director allows all lapped cars to go through, whereby they have to catch up to the safety car and there won’t be any racing laps. But this time, Race Director Michael Masi allowed only five cars to pass. Only the last lap was left after the safety car was called off.
Meanwhile, Verstappen had changed to pairs of fresh soft tyres at the pit while Hamilton continued on with the hard ones. This gave a strategic advantage to Verstappen. He dived up the inside at turn 5 and took the lead. Though Hamilton fought hard, Max Verstappen eventually won the race and the title.
(Main and feature image credit: F1.com)